Neuropeptide Y-like signalling and nutritionally mediated gene expression and behaviour in the honey bee

Authors

  • S. A. Ament,

    1. Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
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    • Present address: Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley.

  • R. A. Velarde,

    1. Entomology Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
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    • Present address: Research Center on Animal Cognition, CNRS/Université Toulouse-III, Toulouse, France.

  • M. H. Kolodkin,

    1. Entomology Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
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  • D. Moyse,

    1. Entomology Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
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  • G. E. Robinson

    Corresponding author
    1. Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
    2. Entomology Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
    3. Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
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Gene E. Robinson, 505 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. Tel.: +217-265-0309; fax: +217-244-3499; e-mail: generobi@illinois.edu

Abstract

Previous research has led to the idea that derived traits can arise through the evolution of novel roles for conserved genes. We explored whether neuropeptide Y (NPY)-like signalling, a conserved pathway that regulates food-related behaviour, is involved in a derived, nutritionally-related trait, the division of labour in worker honey bees. Transcripts encoding two NPY-like peptides were expressed in separate populations of brain neurosecretory cells, consistent with endocrine functions. NPY-related genes were upregulated in the brains of older foragers compared with younger bees performing brood care (‘nurses’). A subset of these changes can be attributed to nutrition, but neuropeptide F peptide treatments did not influence sugar intake. These results contrast with recent reports of more robust associations between division of labour and the related insulin-signalling pathway and suggest that some elements of molecular pathways associated with feeding behaviour may be more evolutionarily labile than others.

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